Before he became the face of the League category on Twitch, a content creator for the most successful Esports organization in Korea, a multi-role Challenger-level player, and a self-proclaimed “problem”, Tyler1 was just your casual Computer Science student that loved lifting weights and playing video games. To find out more about how he managed to go from the only person ever to receive an indefinite ban by Riot to being one of the most famous and beloved members of the League community, read our article below.
The early days
By the end of 2015, League of Legends was already established as one of the most popular games in the world, especially in the MOBA genre. With so much interest being generated around the game, it was only a matter of time that the entertainment aspect of the game would also flourish. Streaming platforms like Twitch had already recognized this opportunity and had been growing rapidly ever since they got acquired by Amazon in 2014. Their goal was to provide entertainment to their users with different types of content, and since League was such a popular topic, it offered loads of opportunities for new content creators. One of them, who had his humble beginnings in early 2016 was Tyler Stienkamp, or better known today as Tyler1, a controversial figure but one of the trademarks to the game regardless.
Today we take a look at his story and how he overcame the countless obstacles in building up what, it seems, one of the biggest brands in League of Legends.
Getting attention, for all the bad reasons
It all started gaining traction in early 2016 when the 21-year-old Tyler, who had started streaming his Solo queue matches since 2014, was now in college. At that time he was enrolled at CMU for his Computer Science Bachelor and was playing for the universities football team, but that didn't stop him from streaming daily for a small audience in the oversaturated field that the League section on Twitch was. In the League community, he was already known for his mechanical prowess, being probably the best Draven player on the North American Server at the time. Unfortunately, instead of his gameplay being the main reason for his popularity, other aspects of his persona drew a lot more attention. At the time, Tyler1 was known as one of the, if not the most toxic player on the entire server, with his behavior drawing critique from all of the already established figures in the high elo community. He was a Draven one-trick that would intentionally ruin his team's chances of winning if his teammates were someone he didn't like, annoyed him in any form or fashion, or if he didn't get to play his champion. This behavior was displayed on multiple occasions with him intentionally dying to the enemies to give them an advantage, and popularized the term "running it down mid". This would not go unpunished though, as all of his actions were being live broadcasted in the streaming platform, resulting in getting his accounts permanently banned for violating multiple terms of the Summoner's Code.
How he capitalized on it
That didn't stop him from continuing his growth as a content creator fueled by the attention he was getting from the backlash from pro players like C9 Meteos and Riot employee Phreak. A video on a youtube channel called Disco Heat, in the series called League of Children, showed a clip of Tyler1 going AFK to ruin the game for another Cloud9 pro player called Hai. This video also contained information about Tyler's infamous "int list" which he used to ruin games for the people that were on it. Even though this video was posted with the intent to highlight the negative behavior which Tyler conducted, it ended up being a major publicity stunt for him. The results spoke for themselves as Tyler's socials on Youtube and Twitch grew from a few thousand to 50 thousand subscribers on youtube and 90 thousand followers on Twitch in a span of two months. Even with constant chat restrictions and permanent banning of his accounts, it still seemed like Riot wasn't doing enough to prevent the negative behavior from happening. Meanwhile, Tyler also had no intention of stopping with the fame and money he was making, fueling his career as a streamer and making it way too tempting for him to change his ways. But soon all of that would crumble on the very cornerstones he had built it on.
Punishment that was unseen before
Riot games were starting to feel the mounting pressure from the community, to prevent the behavior that was considered a bad example of succeeding as a content creator. So on the 30th of April, Riot shocked the community when they announced their indefinite ban on Tyler1 from all their platforms as a result of his continuous breaking of their rules. It was the first example of this kind of punishment aimed at someone who has no affiliation with Riot Games and doesn't participate in their official events. The news quickly spread like a wildfire, reaching the top of the League Subreddit, and also showing up as trending news on the whole platform introducing many people who previously never knew about the game, to the brand and persona that Tyler1 was. The severity of the punishment, as well as the fact that he found out about it on stream as he finished a game before seeing that his account was banned, fitted perfectly with his brand at the time.
Learning and growing,instead of quitting
But Tyler1 took this event very seriously and had realized that to further improve his brand and progress his career as a streamer, he needed a change that would prove to his audience that he is much more than a toxic gamer.
So that summer of 2016, Tyler started his redemption arc, dropping out of college to focus on streaming full-time and growing as an entertainer. He did so by focusing on variety streams playing a bunch of non-Riot-affiliated games, doing cooking, singing, and other daily activity streams accompanied by his friend and streamer Greekgodx. This proved to be the correct approach as he hit 300 thousand subscribers on YouTube and 300 thousand followers on Twitch, proving he's a great entertainer and not just a toxic gamer.
It was at this point that the community perception of him had started to change, started believing in his "reformed" movement, and even #FreeTyler1 hashtags, chants, and signs were present at official Riot events, but they weren't having it. They would quickly proceed to ban these forms of showing support to someone that's been detrimental to the community. He was quickly evolving from the villain of the community to a hero, and Riot became the force that was preventing his redemption arc.
The Tyler1 Championship Series and ensuing drama
To further showcase his dedication to reforming, he created his own tournament called the Tyler1 Championship Series(TCS), completely funded and hosted by him on his Twitch channel featuring other League content creators and notable former pro players who he had befriended and had grown fond of him throughout his reformation. The event turned out to be a major success, surpassing 200 thousand viewers on Twitch, making it more popular than some official broadcasts, as well as changing the narratives surrounding Tyler1.
But things were about to change in a major way in the approach Riot had towards Tyler. On October 1, 2016, a post containing leaked conversations from the official Riot discord, in which Riot Sanjuro, an employee at Riot, had made disrespectful remarks towards Tyler, reached the top of the League Subreddit. The contents of the leaked messages sparked a major outcry in the community about the profanity used by the Riot employee fueled by personal hatred toward Tyler. This was a huge PR hit for Riot and made Tyler1 a victim in the eyes of his fans. The following day it was announced that Riot Sanjuro was fired and an apology towards Tyler was released, stating that Sanjuro was not representing official Riot stances with his comments. To this Tyler responded by saying that he was disappointed that Riot still failed to acknowledge the progress he had made. With this, he had cleverly changed the narrative from his to Riot's behavior, making him a forgiving victim amid the entire drama, while now Riot were the toxic individuals.
Tyler's brand was established and he was a major part of the League community, whenever Riot liked that or not. And after the drama, it seemed like Riot would continue ignoring Tyler and preventing him from completing his redemption arc. Tyler himself took a break from streaming after his TCS tournament had finished and had given no information to his fans about what his next venture would be.
“Reformed” journey was completed
Until it was finally announced, on Jan 4, 2018, via Tyler's Twitter account, that after 613 days of intense rehab, he was finally unbanned from League of Legends. Another announcement soon followed, saying he would resume streaming the following Monday. The day finally came, when Tyler returned to Twitch, dressed in a Draven costume, with thousands of fans flocking into his channel upon hearing the news of his unbanning. Eager to finally see Tyler play League on stream without being banned, the stream peaked at 386 thousand live viewers. The number was a record at that time for any stream on the platform, meaning that Tyler had achieved something very impressive. He quickly became one of the most viewed streamers on the platform, combining his League audience with the new fans enjoying his variety streams. The community welcomed him back, and Riot's stance towards him eventually changed to the point where they would begin collaborating. Later that year, Tyler was invited and attended an official Riot event, as a member of the analyst desk. Not only was he presented on an official Riot broadcast, but he would go on to participate in an exhibition match with other content creators and former pro players in front of thousands of viewers on multiple platforms. This was considered a great achievement considering he went from an example of negative behavior that was issued a one-of-kind punishment, to the face of the community. He successfully rebranded himself, by changing his approach and image in the community, redirecting the focus to his entertainment value away from his questionable behavior.
Never stopped growing
Nowadays, Tyler is still streaming, mainly League of Legends on Twitch, focusing on further improving his gameplay while producing content for his youtube. He is way past his days of being a one-trick and is now a multi-role Challenger player, as a testament to his dedication and love for the game. Ever since his reinstallment, he's been a part of multiple Riot-organized events and exhibition matches, and as of October 20, 2020, he announced that he is a part of the T1(former SKT) organization as a content creator.
In the end, the story of Tyler1 can be interpreted and could have gone in different ways, but what it proved was that everyone deserves a second chance and an opportunity to fulfill their true potential. That all people, including those in the spotlight, should not be judged for their beginnings and mistakes, but their entire body of work and careers.